F45 is a multi-billion-dollar Australian success story that’s gone global, but a court has ordered the fitness behemoth to share its recipe for success.
- Fitness chain F45 has lost a bid to prevent a rival using similar electronic coaching systems
- A Federal Court judge rules that F45’s patent over workout technology is invalid
- F45 is ordered to pay rival Body Fit Training’s court costs
A battle between rival gym empires has ended in a major loss for F45, which had accused a competitor of copying its workout technology.
F45 — which has more than 1,750 franchises in 45 countries — took Body Fit Training to the Federal Court, claiming the Melbourne-based enterprise had infringed a patent it had on its electronic coaching system.
In court, F45 claimed the system produced tangible results for clients and, consequently, economic success for the financial empire.
Its lawyers argued that Body Fit had copied the scheme by also configuring their fitness studios from a central server.
F45’s system uses a computer network to disseminate exercise routines to all of its studios, which gym-goers then watch on screens as they work out.
But yesterday, F45 suffered a double blow in the Federal Court.
Justice John Nicholas ruled that Body Fit had not infringed F45’s patent and that the patent was invalid and should be revoked.
F45 has also been ordered to pay Body Fit’s costs.
Justice Nicholas said the business scheme was not patentable “merely because it is implemented using generic computing technology.”
F45, which was founded in 2013, has star-studded backers, including US actor Mark Wahlberg, former golfer Greg Norman and supermodel Cindy Crawford.
The company aimed to modernise the traditional gym format and last year made its market debut on Wall Street with a $2 billion valuation.
However, Body Fit has had a rapid rise in the Australian fitness industry and has caught the attention of high-profile athletes, with franchises bought by former Test cricketers Tim Paine and George Bailey, and former AFL star Nick Riewoldt.
Dr Kayleen Manwaring, an intellectual property expert at the University of NSW, said attempting to make a computer system exclusive was a big ask.
“It’s still a contested area of law and there have been a series of cases knocking down business schemes,” she said.
F45 currently has a similar patent case before the courts in the United States.
Dr Manwaring said losing the case in Australia did not mean the company’s US suit was doomed to fail.
“There is a different set of principles that apply in the US, so F45 may win in the US,” she said.
In Australia, though, she warned, this case may make it harder to get similar technological patents approved.
Body Fit’s co-chief executives, Cameron Faloon and Richard Burnet, have previously said they were not going to let F45 push them out of the marketplace.
They said F45 was trying to assert “invalid patents” to try and hinder “what we believe to be a superior business model and approach to fitness training”.
F45 says a core part of its business is protecting its innovations and its founder and chief executive, Rob Deutsch, has previously boasted about its methods and techniques being patent- protected.
The ABC has approached both F45 and Body Fit for comment.